Words - Monday Musing, September 20, 2021
Words. Many of us say a lot of words every day. We talk to a significant other, family member, friends, people we see on the street. We talk to the grocery store clerk, the mail carrier, people walking their dog. And let us not forget about the words we write. We write texts, e-mails, Facebook posts, and letters to the editor. Do we know how many words we utter a day? A lot! I saw one post claiming research that the average person says at least 7,000 words a day (with many of us saying more). Another post went further by claiming 20,000 words a day! People perceive us based (in part) on the words we say, and oftentimes the way in which we speak those words.
Sometimes words meant to spur people to action fall on deaf ears and immobilize. Sometimes the words we use to encourage are interpreted as patronizing or condescending. Sometimes we do not know what words to use, and we choose ones that end up doing more harm than good. And these are mistakes that all of us make because we are human. We are not perfect. Even with the best of intentions, we will still misstep in our choice of words from time to time.
In his Epistle to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul counsels us to mind our tongues, to act as if words matter: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6a). Paul is not advocating “salty language” in the way we use the term. In scripture, salt means many things. It preserves food, keeping it pure; it is treasured as a source of healing. So Paul wants us to tend to our words as if they have that kind of power.
I think about the words I use – yes, it is an occupational hazard that I talk (and write) a lot. I am always mindful of the words I use, particularly in worship. Sometimes I get it right. Or so I think. Since words are sometimes received differently than they may be intended, it’s hard to know for sure whether I have used the right (or wrong) words – unless you tell me! Yes, communication is a two-way street.
Words are on my mind as I write this musing because I am thinking about what I will say to the family as I officiate a graveside service for a woman who was mentally ill; the family does not have fond memories of their mother whom they are burying this Thursday. I am thinking about my homily for Bernie Whitaker this Saturday, the journalist and poet who probably wrote more words in her lifetime than we will ever know; how will I adequately capture her life through my words?
The Psalmist writes: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psa 19:14). May it be so. See you in church!